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Apple event April 2021: iPads, AirTag and a purple iPhone

See AirTag, Apple's new device for tracking your lost stuff
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Here's everything Apple announced today

Apple’s hour-long Tuesday event packed in a ton of announcements. They include:

  • New features for families sharing an Apple Card
  • A purple version of the iPhone 12
  • A paid service for podcasts called Apple Podcast Subscriptions
  • The long-awaited AirTag, a Bluetooth locator for items such as keys, wallets and laptops
  • A new 4K Apple TV with an updated Siri remote
  • A redesigned iMac featuring Apple’s in-house M1 chip, and updated accessories such as a keyboard with a fingerprint scanner to unlock the computer
  • And, finally, a new iPad Pro that’s also built with the M1 chip

Also worth noting: Among the software updates in the new products are a number of features geared toward working from home, including improvements to the cameras in both the iMac and iPad Pro to make you look and sound better during video meetings.

The iPad Pro gets a refresh

Apple is adding its powerful M1 chip to the iPad Pro, enabling several software updates including better graphics, enhanced video effects and augmented reality features.

An updated camera allows enhanced depth and better quality video, and a feature called Center Stage that automatically zooms out during video calls or meetings depending on the number of people in the frame.

The Pro starts at $799 and is available for order from April 30.

Meet Apple's new iMac with M1

Apple announced a redesigned iMac featuring the company’s new in-house M1 chip.

The new chip allowed Apple to shrink the internal hardware — building in a smaller logic board and replacing the thermal system that keeps the machine cool with two small fans. The new iMac is just 11.5 millimeters deep.

The M1 chip will also make iMac apps run faster, improve the speed of machine learning and enable the use of iPhone apps such as Zillow and Headspace from the iMac screen, Apple execs said Tuesday.

iMac will now have a 24-inch, 4.5 K display with 11.3 million pixels. And it comes in seven colors, including peach, mint and lavender.

For users still working from home, Apple also improved the iMac’s camera. The 1080p camera’s features include auto white balance, noise reduction and tone mapping to make you look better. The computer also has a new mic designed to reduce feedback noise so you sound better, too.

The new iMac starts at $1,299 for four colors, and $1,499 for the other three colors plus additional features. It will be available in the second half of May.

Apple adds a fingerprint scanner to the iMac keyboard

Apple is adding a touch ID button to the iMac’s external keyboard for the first time. The Touch ID button will be placed in the top right corner of the keyboard, like it is on the latest MacBooks, and will similarly let users unlock their computer, switch users or make payments through their fingerprints.

Both the keyboard and Apple’s Magic Mouse will be available in a variety of colors to match with the new range of colors on the iMac.

Apple TV 4K gets an update and a new Siri remote

Apple is rolling out the next generation of its Apple TV 4K streaming device, along with a new Siri remote.

The remote, made from what Apple says is 100% recycled aluminum, includes a new pad at the top that users can click or swipe through to navigate, as well as a dedicated Siri button on the side.

The remote also has a dedicated power button to switch your TV on and off. The new Apple TV will be available starting April 30, with a 32 GB version for $179 and a 64 GB version for $199.

Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested there hadn’t been an Apple TV with 4K before. This is the second generation of an Apple TV with 4K.

Apple announces podcast subscriptions

Apple has another new subscription product: a paid service for podcasts called Apple Podcast Subscriptions. 

Among the perks of a podcast subscription will be ad-free listening, early access to new series and exclusive content. Some of the participating media brands include NPR, the Los Angeles Times and The Athletic. 

The paid service will be available in 170 regions and countries next month. Podcast creators set their own pricing. Apple’s Family Sharing is enabled so that up to six family members can share a podcast subscription. 

Apple also redesigned its podcast app, including a new section called channels that will curate shows.

Apple shows off AirTag

In what was Apple’s worst kept secret in recent history, the company finally unveiled AirTag, a Tile-like Bluetooth locator that attaches to and helps you find items such as keys, wallets, laptops or even your car.

The small, flat, circular discs with built-in chips allow someone to locate items when connected to Apple’s Find My app. It also works with Siri.

The stainless steel devices, which are water and dust resistant, feature a built-in speaker that plays sounds to help locate an AirTag. It’s packed with the Apple-designed U1 chip, which uses Ultra Wideband technology – the same chip used in the iPhone 12.

While location trackers are hardly new – there are similar products from Samsung, Sony and Tile, the U1 chip will more accurately determine the distance and direction to a lost item.

Similar to Apple Watch, it’s possible to add free engraving to the device.

You can buy an AirTag for $29 and a four pack for $99, starting April 30. Users can also splurge for leather accessories, such as key rings, luggage tags and a bag charm from Hermès.

Apple introduces a new purple iPhone

Among all the new product announcements was a slightly different reveal — a new color for the iPhone 12. Apple’s newest smartphone is now available in purple.

The new purple iPhone 12 will be available for pre-order Friday and will go on sale April 30.

Apple introduces new 'Apple Card Family' features

Apple is making changes for spouses and families who share their Apple Card credit card accounts, features it is calling “Apple Card Family,” CEO Tim Cook announced Tuesday.

Spouses can now merge and share their Apple Card credit lines, while having equal rights on the account and with each person building credit. For families, the company will now allow any member over the age of 13 to use the family Apple Card account.

Apple Card is an Apple-branded credit card issued by Goldman Sachs that the company launched in 2019, available only to iPhone users. It can be used as a physical card like other credit cards, as well as on Apple Pay to make contactless payments.

Tim Cook intros Apple event with help from AR

Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the Apple event from the company’s Cupertino, California, campus, with a little assistance from augmented reality.

The same colorful AR swirls that were included in invitations to the event made an appearance in a short video. The animation moved about Cook and formed the word “hello.

Last week, Apple senior marketing executive Greg Joswiak added to the fodder when he tweeted a video featuring an animation of the spirals bouncing around Apple’s campus. It sparked speculation that augmented reality could also be part of the company’s presentation.

New additions could be coming for Apple services

Apple could announce new games for its Apple Arcade service today. Apple Arcade was launched in 2019.

Along with hardware products, Apple may also announce new offerings from the services side of its business, Forrester principal analyst Thomas Husson said in an email ahead of Tuesday’s event.

That could include new games for Apple Arcade or shows on Apple TV+.

The new processors rumored to be coming for the Apple TV and iPad Pro would better support Arcade graphics, making the service more appealing to consumers.

Apple may also mention the new Fitness+ offerings it announced last week, which included workouts geared toward pregnant people, older adults and beginners.

Last fall, the company introduced a bundle, called Apple One, that lets users access Apple TV+, Music, Arcade and other services with a single, monthly subscription payment. Apple said in January it has more than 620 million paid subscriptions across its services.

Will we see AirTags today?

Perhaps the buzziest product in the rumor mill is the potential debut of AirTags, Apple’s long-rumored Bluetooth tracking device.

What are AirTags?

The Tile-like locator attaches to and helps you find items such as keys, wallets, laptops or even your car. AirTags have been reportedly in the works as far back as 2019, when pictures hidden within iOS 13 suggested small, flat, circular discs with built-in chips could allow someone to locate items when connected to Apple’s Find My app.

The rumored cost: $39 each.

AirTags are expected to include the same U1 ultra-wideband chip as the iPhone 12, which would make location tracking more accurate than competing devices from companies such as Tile, Samsung and Sony, according to MacRumors. 

Why now?

The arrival of AirTags would allow the company to expand its offerings and lock users deeper into its ecosystem as it looks for more ways to combat an expected decline in its hardware revenues.

While accessories for an accessory might sound like a stretch, customers who are delaying costly smartphone and tablet upgrades may be willing to spend more on lower cost items. That said, it’s possible AirTags could emerge as a category unto its own, much like AirPods.

Either way, it would be a smart time for their launch as customers are finally emerging from over a year of lockdown — ready, perhaps, to find things people invariably lose when outside the house.

What else we could see today: Apple TV, privacy features and more

Here are some other updates Apple could release today:

Apple TV

Not only is the Apple TV due for a new processor and support for better refresh rates for gaming, a redesigned remote could work as a physical locator for AirTags, according to tech blog 9to5Mac.

AirPods 3

The next-generation of Apple’s wireless earbuds are believed to have a design more in line with its higher-end AirPods Pro, along with spatial audio support and touch controls.

AirPods have cultivated a cult-like following over the years and emerged as a fashion and status symbol, but it’s possible Apple could wait until later this year to show off a new model.

MacBooks

Apple’s MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are also due for refreshes, but it’s unclear if they’ll get one as early as next week. Apple recently discontinued its iMac Pro line, once the most-powerful computer the company offered, and its original HomePod to focus more on the HomePod mini.

Software

Apple could also walk users through an expected iOS 14.5 software update focused on privacy. Its upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature will require app developers to explicitly divulge how they’re collecting user data, what it’ll be used for, and require user consent before they download or update apps from the App Store.

Also likely: new emojis, including one of a less graphic syringe amid the vaccine rollout.

Get ready for iPad updates

Apple CEO Tim Cook during a former Apple event.

Apple’s Spring events are often a mixed big: We’ve seen launches around education, its streaming services and the budget-friendly iPhone SE. But this year, Apple is expected to show off an updated iPad Pro with a faster processor, 5G support, a Thunderbolt port so it can connect to more external monitors and a Mini LED display.

The display is expected to increase brightness, offer a higher contrast ratio, improve power efficiencies for a longer battery life but be slightly thicker than current versions. It’s possible Apple will also show off a redesigned iPad mini with smaller bezels and a larger display.

But it’s unclear if any of these updates will be enough to convince users to upgrade.

Eleftheria Kouri, an analyst at tech market advisory firm ABI Research, said tablet shipments significantly increased in 2020, thanks in part to remote learning and working. But that uptick won’t last forever.